The final month of our adventure! As I am writing this we are packing up for our flight back to Canada. But what a whirlwind this past month has been. We had so much we wanted to cram into our final month of traveling from down South in Melbourne to Cape Tribulation up North, and then back down to the GC (Gold Coast).
On our return back into Melbourne from Tasmania we had a day to spend with our new friends who we had stayed with before heading down to Tazzy. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and we headed out to the corner coffee shop for some brekky (breakfast) with the guys and their group of friends. It was their routine meeting place and it was fun to feel like a part of the gang. Thank you Michael, Liam and Luke for your hospitality, it was a pleasure meeting you guys and we will have to crash one of your Deep House festivals if we are ever back in Melbourne! Later that day we had set up a meeting with a previous co-worker friend of mine from Canada. Sam had just moved back to Melbourne several weeks prior. It was fun to see a familiar face and reminisce about “the good ‘ol days” back on our project in Waterloo. Thank you for making to the time to hang out with us for the afternoon, Sam. It was great to see you!
It was time to continue heading North. We had a lot of ground to cover and we did not want to be rushed for time at the end of the trip. It would take us two days to drive up to Canberra with a stop for the night in the hills of the Alpine National Park.
The next morning we made our way up to Canberra. We spent the evening seeing some of the recommended government buildings and getting lost in the midst of the Parliament Circle.
We were looking forward to a special breakfast we had set up for the next morning. My Grandparents on my Mom’s side had spent a year in Canberra before I was born and had kept in touch with some good friends that they had made. Carl and I had the opportunity to meet up with them and their family. We enjoyed a long lunch together which after a few hours of chatting still ended too soon. It was a pleasure getting to spend the morning with such a fun group of people along with being able to hear the stories of their time with my Grandparents.
It was a beautiful afternoon in Canberra and we could not pass up the opportunity to do a little more exploring of the city before moving on to Sydney.
Just west of Sydney are the Blue Mountains. The foothills of this beautiful mountain range was our next destination. Toni was with Paula when we had met them both in Thailand in November. Toni and her two sisters lived together in a lovely house on the edge of the mountains and they had invited us to stop by on our way through Sydney. We had a beautiful time exploring some of the mountains together during the day, and relaxing and getting to know this awesome group of sisters in the evenings. Toni, being a vegetarian chef, also made us some delicious food that put our “living in a van style chili” to shame! Thank you for everything Toni!
The cold Southern winds were beginning to blow in, the nights were getting colder and we were wanting to continue pushing north (we had lost any Canadian immunity to the cold by this point). Despite the cold, we felt like we should spend at least a day exploring downtown Sydney. Carl had recently read the “fine print” on the disabled parking permit which we found out allowed us to legally park in certain city metered parking spaces indefinitely and free of charge! We decided that it would be a shame to not use this as an opportunity to camp out for the night downtown Sydney. We chose the parking spot with the best view of the iconic Sydney Opera House and set up camp for the night. By this point we had gotten over the slight embarrassment that comes with eating dinner on the sidewalk or brushing teeth in front of the bus loads of tourists. We were also able to take the evening to explore downtown and relax at our makeshift campsite with a beautiful view.
The next day we explored more of the City and attempted to get tickets for a show at the Opera House. I was a little bashful about going to see a show with my dirty ripped clothes and tennis shoes, but Carl was less intimidated and ready to see a show. To our frustration, however, there were no wheelchair accessible seats unless you paid for a box seat, and there were no available seats in the boxes for the shows that worked for us. A little disappointed we decided to spend the rest of the morning in Sydney and then continue driving up the coast.
Our next stop was the beloved Byron Bay. This has become one of our favorite stops and this would be our third time heading back. We mostly love this town (like most of our favorite adventures) because of the people we had met. We let them know we were heading back into town and rolled in that weekend. It was a great time hanging out with previously made friends along with meeting and spending time with some new people as well. We had only spent a few hours getting to know Ivan and Grace on our last visit when they had told us that we would be staying with them the next time we were passing through. We gladly took them up on their offer and spent a few days with them on their beautiful property in Mullumbimby not too far outside of Byron. We had a great time with this beautiful family!
We also could not pass up the opportunity to spend a day with Tim and Ted our “go to guys” for hanging out whenever we were in the area.
While we were spending time with Ted he had told of us a good friend of his, John, who lived up north near Rockhampton. We would be traveling through that area over the next few weeks. Ted contacted John and we planned on setting up camp at his place on our way North. After a beautiful few days in Byron we took the scenic route through the mountains back up North to The GC (Gold Coast). This route included a quick stop in Nimbin, a famous little town known for their “herbal availability”… don’t worry mom we just passed through to check it out! Before we reached this unique little town we had to pass through some hilly winding roads. On one turn we noticed two camper vans pulled over to the side with several young women looking under the hood. Being the fine young gentlemen our parents trained us to be, we stopped to see if we could help. We spent several minutes talking with them when one of the women said that she recognized us. They had seen us in New Zealand several months earlier and had camped near us for a night or two. These interactions have become more common than expected where people will tell us they saw us at a previous campsite, on the beach a week earlier or somewhere in the city. I now have my pre-planned response of asking them if they just recognized us due to my immaculate facial hair. They are usually quick to correct me that Carl is the one they actually recognized.
We made our always enjoyable stop in the Gold Coast to visit with everyone before pushing North to Cairns. We were excited to have a get together with the crew that we had met on our trek up Mt. Warning a few months earlier. The weekend also corresponded with my 28th birthday, so it became a dual celebration. It was an incredible feeling looking around at this large group of people knowing that we had not known any of them six months prior, and now appreciating the friendships that Carl and I so deeply enjoyed with each of them.
We were scheduled to leave the Gold Coast early that next week. However Carl and I, along with several others, all started feeling sick. Let me take this moment to address a cultural issue where women refer to this sickness as the “manflu”. Science says that when a man has the common cold it is the closest to death that a human being can come without crossing over. All of this to say both Carl and I bravely battled the manflu but decided to hold off on setting back out on the road until we were feeling better. Later that week after we both narrowly escaped the painful clutches of death, we got back in the van and started driving North along the coast.
Our first stop North was at the house of Ted’s Friend John, who I had mentioned earlier. Carl and I attended John’s church that Sunday morning and spent the afternoon and evening with John relaxing and getting to know each other in the purposeful way that only comes from the unhurried conversation with nowhere else to be. It was a pleasure getting to spend the weekend with you, brother
After several days of driving further North with beautiful camp sites and driving views along the way, we arrived in Cairns. Our first stop was the home of Garry, the dad of two friends we had made on the Gold Coast (Sam and John). When we explained our plans of heading North they had told us to be sure and stop in for a night or two with their Dad, Garry. Garry was riot and we all enjoyed our time together, mostly us listening to his many ridiculous stories over a glass of “Bogan Bundy”.
We also had two special friends who we wanted to catch up with while in Cairns. Don and Fionna were a couple who we had met within our first few weeks in Australia. Don is a quadriplegic who was injured five years ago due to an accident while working on his vehicle. We had met Don and Fionna at the Spinal Life Clinic in Brisbane, and after Don made a horrible pun, Carl and him become instant friends. Fionna and I also connected on a deeper level as two people naturally would who have to put up with the constant flow of bad puns. Carl had stayed in touch with Don after our first meeting and we were able to schedule some time with them while in Cairns. It was an honor being able to spend time with this amazing couple!
We left Cairns in order to complete our last push North which would allow us to spend a few days exploring the Daintree Rain forest which is titled as being the oldest rain forest in the world. Looking at the prehistoric vegetation, tall ferns, long vines and animals that I had never heard of before, the enchantment of the rain forest encouraged the onlooker to sit in silence letting the trickling creeks fill the lush green silence. It was a beautiful place with the title of “where the rain forest meets the sea”.
However, in the midst of the beauty we were constantly reminded to stay away from the water’s edge due to the presence of salties (salt water crocodiles). We could not pass up the opportunity to jump on a boat and float down the river checking out some of the wild local salties while attempting our spot on impressions of Steve Irwin.
As impressive as these crocodiles were, my favorite wild life encounter was when we were able to see some wild Cassowarys. And if you do not know what a cassowary is, the best way I can describe it is a mixture between an ostrich and a velociraptor, known by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most dangerous bird in the world”. Anyway, they are awesome and we felt privileged to see some in the wild!
We spent two days exploring the rain forest, and then began making our way back south. We had two more destinations before heading back to the Gold Coast. The first was a stop in at the house of a Woman and her son, Deborah and Timothy. Deborah was the wife of John’s landlord. She had been down to Yepoon visiting while we were staying there and after a small time of chatting she informed us that we would be staying with them as we passed through Cardwell (a town a few hours south of Cairns). We spent several days with Deborah and Timothy. Over these few days we spent time exploring the local waterfalls and swimming holes, driving the countryside, laughing together, singing our favorite songs, crying together as we discussed the hard parts of life, and praying together and for one another. Deborah and her family will always hold a special place in our hearts.
We now only had two weeks until our flight back to Canada and we wanted to take a few day detour into the Outback before heading back to the Gold Coast. After talking with several people and taking into account our time constraints we decided to make our way west to a town called Winton, Northwest of Longreach. As we drove west the sugarcane fields slowly dissolved into brush, the brown soil slowly turned to red cracked earth and the trees slowly disappeared until the grass was all you could see. It reminded Carl of the flat prairies of Saskatchewan where the joke is “you can watch your dog run away for two days.”
And so it came to be that our time road tripping with Rainey came to an end. Our last night was spent in the town of Chinchilla on our way back to the Gold Coast. We still had a week until our flight back to Canada, but we would be spending the remainder of our time in different friend’s homes saying our goodbyes.
We had made it back to the Gold Coast by Friday night and decided to head down to Byron Bay for one last visit to the church on Sunday and time with friends for the weekend. It was an enjoyable relaxing time as we stayed with Ivan, Grace and Mimi. We hung out with Ted and Tim chilling for an impromptu afternoon lunch which Ted turned into a feast (as he does). We were also able to meet some of the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) staff and new students at their headquarters Monday afternoon before making our way back to the Gold Coast for a last relaxing weekend before flying out.
Our last week mostly consisted of taking the days slow and meeting up with people and saying our goodbyes in the evenings. It was a blessing to be able to spend some evenings with Paula and Tracey as we were staying with them for the week. Our last night in the Gold Coast was spent with Leo, Jackie and family cheering for the QLD Rugby League team as they competed against the NSW team in the Origins competition. Jackie was sure to buy both Carl and I QLD beanies as we would naturally be cheering against Leo’s beloved NSW!
As I finish this post, Carl and I are on a train heading to the Brisbane Airport. There are too many thoughts swirling around to thoroughly summarize what the past eight months have meant to Carl and I. It has been the trip of a lifetime. We have stood in awe of the New Zealand Alps, we have spent time witnessing the life and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. We have concurred mountain tops and spent quiet nights falling asleep on the beach to the sound of the waves. We have spent countless hours putting up with the music that we couldn’t agree on, and far too many evenings eating my below average meals. We have made lifelong friends and have seen beauty that you only expect to see in movies. It has been a life changing trip for us both, a reminder of the beauty of God’s amazing creation, but most of all a reminder of the love and friendship that is eagerly awaiting with each new hello!